A Colonial Christmas

The sun sets on the Straits of Mackinac. Fires crackle in stone hearths. The smell of treats and warm beverages fill the crisp winter air. Laughter, conversation, and more can be heard emanating from inside the palisaded walls. It’s ‘A Colonial Christmas’ at Colonial Michilimackinac, where the traditions of the 17th and 18th century are alive for all to explore.

Lanterns light the path in Michilimackinac where storytellers recount the various traditions of historic residents, a retelling of the first Christmas at Mackinac in 1679, and the church at Ste. Anne’s prepared for Christmas Mass as it would have been in the 18th century. Create crafts to take home and bring the family out on the Parade Ground for historic games. All the while, enjoy delicious holiday snacks located throughout the fort. #thisismackinac

Adults: $10
Child (5-12): $6
Under 4: Free
Mackinac Associates (excluding Heritage level): Free

Click here to purchase tickets.

Fort Fright

Lanterns light your way through an 18th-century fort and fur trading village overrun by werewolves, witches, goblins and ghouls. Storytellers weave spooky folktales near bonfires and treats such as hot mulled cider, cookies and candy can be found throughout the site. Most stops are suitable for all ages, but a haunted house, demon walk and werewolf walk will give thrills and chills to adults and children alike.

Tickets will be available online in September. Last admission at 8:30 both nights. 

Fort Fright

Lanterns light your way through an 18th-century fort and fur trading village overrun by werewolves, witches, goblins and ghouls. Storytellers weave spooky folktales near bonfires and treats such as hot mulled cider, cookies and candy can be found throughout the site. Most stops are suitable for all ages, but a haunted house, demon walk and werewolf walk will give thrills and chills to adults and children alike.

Tickets will be available online in September. Last admission at 8:30 both nights. 

Colonial Michilimackinac Fall Garden Round-up 2022

 As the season for growing things begins to wind down, the interpretive staff at Colonial Michilimackinac are thinking back on a fabulous season of gardening. We have had good vegetables and lovely flowers that were used to decorate the dinner table. Fresh herbs like parsley and chives added flavor to fish and other foods at our daily food programs.

Garlic

 The summer of 2022 was an especially good year for root vegetables. Garlic, onions, carrots, turnips, parsnips, and radishes all grew great and are being used in our daily food programs. Some of them are still going strong and will be left in the ground until next spring to be dug as soon as the ground thaws. Leaving them in the soil is a very easy way of keeping them. Other methods included lifting vegetables and placing them in carefully packed layers of damp sand in a crate or a barrel and stored in a cellar to keep them until use.

Carrots peeking out

 Beans and peas, unfortunately, were largely a wash this summer. The woodland voles, ground squirrels and mice were much quicker at getting to them than the people. We did plant some late peas that are just starting to blossom, so we might still get one patch this year, but not nearly as much as we usually count on. The only beans that have done really well are our our scarlet runner beans. The scarlet runners are magnificent plants and draw in hummingbirds and loads of pollinators. They produce pods that are sometimes up to ten inches long with burgundy and black seeds inside. The seeds will be collected once they are fully mature and some will be used to plant the garden next season. What we do not use for planting, we will use for our food programs.

Pea blossom

 While the beans and peas did not do well, our squash and pumpkins made up for it by bounds. They will soon be taken off the vines and set to cure in the sun. This hardens the outer rind and helps to keep them from going to mush. They will be used for our programs and either kept whole or dried for long-term use. Residents living inside the walls of Michilimackinac would have acquired larger, field crops like pumpkins and squash from the Anishnaabe. Roasting, stewing and baking them were common ways of preparing them for the table.

Scarlet runners

 It has been a good year of planting and caring for the outdoor spaces at Colonial Michilimackinac. We still have a lot of work to do and are still planting and planning for next year. For more information, or to purchase tickets to visit, please see our website.

Spooky Specters and Lurking Lutins Await at Fort Fright October 7-8

 Be wary of were-wolves and look out for lutins as you walk the lantern-lit path along the shore of Lake Michigan to Colonial Michilimackinac for Fort Fright the evenings of October 7 and 8, 2022.

 From 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. (last admission at 8:30 p.m.), eighteenth-century French-Canadian folklore comes to life. Visitors must tread lightly on the path along the shoreline, because as the sun sets on the horizon, all manner of monsters take over the fort and eagerly await your arrival inside. There are campfires glowing in the night where a voyageur tells eerie tales and warns you of the terror that might await you before you approach the guarded gates of Colonial Michilimackinac. You are now on your own to enter the wooden palisade, a frightening world of fun and phantoms wrapped into one.

 As you venture inside the gate, British Redcoats of a different order patrol the wooden fort. Look closer to see they’re not ordinary soldiers, but skeletons with bony fingers outstretched beckoning you to enter.

 More campfires crackle inside the fort, but there are friendly faces around these. French fur traders and voyageurs are telling more tales, singing songs played to traditional music of the 1700s, and visiting with guests. The fires offer a respite from the mythical creatures that prefer other places, like the upper stories of the wooden buildings where they throw open shutters and cackle, howl or prowl around the palisade.

 Other frightening features include the Demon Walk boasting vicious monsters waiting to trick you out of fortune and pull you into the underworld and the Werewolf Walk, where the most terrifying of the creatures in the fort prowl and hunt for you in the dark. A tour of the haunted rowhouse, a custom designed exhibit for this occasion, will not be easily forgotten.

 In other wooden buildings within the fort and fur trading village, colonial residents serve warm autumn treats like homemade cookies and toffee. Guests can learn about death and burial in the 1700s, and the various traditions and ceremonies for the dead from over 250 years ago in the church. In addition to creatures, colonial residents with friendly faces roam the village, following the lantern-lit paths that wind throughout the fort, a unique nighttime atmosphere available only on these two nights.

 Fort Fright isn’t meant to simply scare visitors. There’s an eerie but real background to the event, which stems from French-Canadian tales that were passed on from person-to-person as voyageurs and other people traveled. As such, there’s a strong history of oral tradition behind Fort Fright. That oral history is shared around campfires much in the same way it was shared over two-and-a-half centuries ago.

 The characters that roam Fort Fright, such as were-wolves, lutins, and Le Dame Blanche, meaning White Lady (Ghost), are drawn from a book called Were-Wolves and Will-o-the-Wisps: French Tales of Mackinac Retold by Dirk Gringhuis. The collection of short stores, published by Mackinac State Historic Parks, is based on French-Canadian folktales brought to the Mackinac Straits area by the voyageurs during the height of the French fur trade. The stories and chilling ambiance shared at Fort Fright often have modern day counterparts, but they are still new and different with many twists. By combining the nuances of the oral history and live interpretation of the terrifying characters, Mackinac State Historic Parks is able to create a fun and, at times, spooky atmosphere for all ages. It’s the stories and the individuals sharing them that make this such a chilling and memorable experience—leaving you to wonder if that noise you hear is really just the wind, or perhaps something far more frightening. Priced at $6, the book is sold during the event and can also be purchased prior to Fort Fright at the Colonial Michilimackinac Visitor’s Center or by calling 231-436-4100.

 Admission to Fort Fright is $11 per adult, $7 children ages 5-12, and free for children 4 and under and Mackinac Associates members (excluding Heritage Level). Tickets are available now online, or pre-purchase your family’s tickets beginning October 1 in the Colonial Michilimackinac Visitor’s Center. Visitors who purchase in advance will be able to enter through a shorter line, indicated by the “Mackinac Associates and Pre-Paid Tickets Here” sign. Last admission on both nights is at 8:30 p.m. Call 231-436-4100 for more information.

 Much of Colonial Michilimackinac has been reconstructed based on archaeological excavations, including its 13 buildings and structures, many of which will be open and featuring special activities during Fort Fright. The fort and fur trading village was founded by the French in 1715 and is depicted today as it was in the 1770s when occupied by the British.

 

 

Michilimackinac Unreconstructed

All the of the buildings you see at Michilimackinac today are based on archaeological excavations, but not every structure that has been excavated has been reconstructed. Join Curator of Archaeology Dr. Lynn Evans for an evening tour to learn about these locations and what they tell us about life on the fur trade frontier.

Admission by donation. Entrance is off Straits Avenue. #thisismackinac

2022 Archaeology Field Season Wrap-Up

Possible milk pan.

Potential sugar bowl.

 The second half of the 2022 Michilimackinac archaeology field season was as interesting as the first half, with several complementary finds. We found three more rim sherds in the southeast cellar which matched the large piece of bowl (more info here) found the first week of the season. From these, we can see that the vessel had a spout and may have been a milk pan used to cool milk fresh from the cow and allow the cream to separate. The southeast cellar also contained three pieces of what appears to be a sugar bowl, a large fragment of a saucer and several pieces of an unknown vessel with the handle broken off.

Large fragment of a saucer.

Unknown vessel with handle broken. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Buttplate from a trade gun.

 The southeast cellar also yielded part of a buttplate from a trade gun. It does not match the buttplate finial found earlier in the season. It is thicker and engraved with a different motif.

 

 

 

 

Brass scale weight. 

 The central cellar yielded a second brass scale weight. It was in the form of a cup, from a nested set of weights. It weighed half of an apothecary dram and is stamped with what appears to be a fleur-de-lis.

 

 

 

 

Joined sleeve buttons

Earring fragment.

 Following the single sleeve button found in June, a linked pair of sleeve buttons and an earring fragment were found in August. All had green paste stones, and all were found in the 1781 demolition rubble layer.

 

 

 

Padlock

 The final unusual find of the season was a small padlock found in the southeast cellar [image 20220818_padlock]. It was only 1.75” tall. This fits in well with the image we have constructed of a wealthy household, as you do not need a lock unless you have something to protect.

 The site is now lined with plastic and packed with hay bales for the winter. Work has shifted to the lab, where the artifacts will be cleaned, sorted, counted, and identified over the coming months.